When the Dolphins signed receivers Albert Wilson and Danny Amendola in the first two days of free agency, Jakeem Grant said he was pleased because “I’m a guy that likes to compete” and also because he always admired Amendola, a fellow Texas Tech alum.
But with the Dolphins now having four receivers with starting experience (Wilson, Amendola, Kenny Stills, DeVante Parker), Grant also thought this: “You get two [receivers] that sign with a team, of course you are going to wonder where I fit in. It’s time to compete, time to bring out every trick in the book and show I belong on the field.”
Grant made his case for playing time with impressive touchdown receptions in the final month of the season against New England and Kansas City. And he has continued his good work in the offseason program. During Wednesday’s minicamp, he had at least three impressive plays in which he eluded defenders and gained substantial yards after catch.
“I really have been impressed with the kid,” offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said. “He flashed at the end of the season. He’s short in stature, but he does not play short. He’s having a really good camp so far.”
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Grant, the Dolphins’ shortest and lightest receiver at 5-7 and 169 pounds, said he has gained strength this offseason because “being a short guy, I have to be strong. I have to be able to hold my ground.”
The key to his rise in the final month of the season, when he had 10 catches for 188 yards?
“Toward the end of the season, I started hitting the playbook really hard,” he said. “Coach started giving me a chance. And I let them know this is who I really am — I can make these plays and I can do this. That built confidence in me.”
He has been sitting next to Amendola in meetings and picking his brain about defensive coverages and other nuances. Grant is fourth on the all-time Texas Tech reception list, Amendola ninth.
When the Dolphins signed Amendola, “I texted Danny and said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me,’” Grant said. “I never got to play with him at Texas Tech. I was like, ‘Man, I get to see this guy I’ve been looking up to since I’ve been in college.’ I was truly happy because we had that brotherhood. I met him plenty of times when he came down to Lubbock.”
Grant, the Dolphins’ primary returner, wants to do enough to compel the coaches to play him on offense, even as a potential No. 5 receiver. He said he’s the fastest player on the team “hands down,” though he said his legs would be too short to win a marathon.
This season, he said, the goal is “being me and letting people see who I really am instead of being uptight. Mistakes come in trying to impress people too much instead of being myself.”
The Dolphins signed rookie draft picks Jerome Baker, Kalen Ballage and Durham Smythe, leaving tight end Mike Gesicki as the only unsigned draft pick.
▪ A day after rookie seventh-rounder Jason Sanders hit all seven field-goal attempts (including one from 56 yards), undrafted ex-FAU rookie Greg Joseph on Wednesday made only five of nine, missing several between 42 and 46.
But special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi said overall, Sanders and Joseph have been “about even” in field-goal percentage during the first eight practices, adding that “both have a lot of pop on the ball.”
▪ Rizzi noted that Amendola was the Patriots’ primary punt returner last season (27 returns for 231 yards, 8.6 average), but with the Dolphins, it will be “more of a situational thing” for Amendola as a punt returner. He could end up sharing that role with Grant (25-190, 7.6 average), though others such as Wilson also could get chances.
▪ Loggains said the player “who has made the biggest improvement Week 1 to 2” is right guard Jesse Davis. “First week, he got beat on his hands a couple times,” Loggains said. “I have seen a jump in his performance."
▪ Defensive coordinator Matt Burke said linebacker Stephone Anthony has been getting a lot of work with the starters (alongside Kiko Alonso and Raekwon McMillan) because “he has a little bit of comfort level with knowledge.” The competition for the third starting linebacker job remains open.